This week’s watershed focus is Cascade Creek, a heavily urbanized watershed located in Millcreek Township and the City of Erie. You can no longer follow Cascade Creek, which flows through commercial, industrial and residential areas, to its headwaters, because it is encased in underground concrete pipes in many locations. The vegetated riparian buffers that stabilized the streambanks were removed, as were wetlands and floodplain areas that helped to filter pollutants from runoff and prevent flooding downstream.
Because the stream was a major source of pollution and sedimentation for Presque Isle Bay, it contributed to the Bay listing in 1991 as an Area of Concern, or one of the most polluted places in the Great Lakes. While much work still needs to be done, Cascade Creek and the Bay, which was delisted as an AOC in 2013, have improved.
Thanks to a variety of groups including PA Sea Grant and the S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie, this vital natural resource is once again playing an important role in keeping sediment and other pollutants out of Presque Isle Bay. A ten-year stream restoration effort including numerous projects in Frontier Park and property adjacent to the Bayfront Parkway have repaired 3,900 linear feet along Cascade Creek. This will improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat by keeping 463.8 tons of sediment out of the stream each year.
The Currie Landfill is located adjacent to Cascade Creek in Millcreek Township, Erie County, along West 15th Street south of Yorktown Plaza and west of Pittsburgh Avenue. The site previously operated as a household and industrial waste landfill. Heavy metals and volatile organic compounds from waste disposed at the site were responsible for contaminating soil, groundwater, and the sediments and surface water in the West Branch of Cascade Creek. A $4.4 million cleanup of the Curry Landfill site was completed in 2013, and DEP officials said levels of contaminants in groundwater and Cascade creek, which runs near the site have decreased.